Aussie rules players launch legal action over concussions
MELBOURNE, Australia — A class action has been launched on behalf of Australian rules footballers who have sustained concussion-related injuries while playing or preparing for professional games in the national league since 1985.
Margalit Injury Lawyers filed the action in Victoria state’s Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Outside the court, lawyer Michel Margalit said the firm was seeking about 2 million Australian dollars ($1.35million) plus medical expenses per player. More than 60 former players or the families of dead players have already joined the class action.
Margalit said it could cost the AFL close to 1 billion Australian dollars ($666 million).
“But we must remember that this is not about bringing down the AFL,” Margalit said in comments reported by Australian Associated Press. "This is about compensating these injured players.”
The lead plaintiff is Jarad Maxwell Rooke, who played 135 games for Geelong between 2001 and October 2010. The class action alleges Rooke sustained permanent and life-altering injuries as a result of concussion-related injuries and because of the AFL’s negligence.
The identities of other players involved in the action have not been published.
“Their careers are finished and years later they find these concussion-related injuries creeping in and affecting their ability to work, their ability to have a happy family life,” Margalit said.
The Melbourne-based AFL is the highest-rating sport in Australia and the top-flight national league has teams in every mainland state.
The AFL said it hadn't yet received formal correspondence regarding the class action, but added that it takes concussions “and the protection of the brain health of all those playing our game extremely seriously.”
The AFL said it had this week updated concussion-related guidelines for the top flight, where players diagnosed with concussion must pass an 11-step return to play protocol over a minimum of 12 days before being medically cleared.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners last month warned governments and sporting bodies that they must do more to limit the long-term impacts of concussions and repeated head trauma, and submitted a report to an Australian Senate inquiry into concussions and head trauma in contact sports.
Increased reporting of athletes struggling with post-concussion syndrome and suspected chronic traumatic encephalopathy , or CTE, have given the issue wider public exposure.
The death of star Australian rules football player and coach Danny Frawley was reported widely across the country. Last year, a Victoria state coroner recommended that AFL players be encouraged to donate their brains post-mortem to science to help further the understanding of CTE, a degenerative brain disease found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma.
Frawley, who’d been suffering from anxiety and depression, died at the age of 56 in a car crash in 2019 and a post-mortem examination revealed he had CTE, which can only be diagnosed by autopsy.
The effects of concussions on athletes in professional contact sports is well-documented. In the United States., Boston University CTE Center has done studies which show that more than 300 National Football League players have developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy.